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Party time for pupils after double Ofsted joy

It was party time for pupils at Ashington Learning Partnership Trust’s two primary schools as they celebrated excellent Ofsted reports.

Excited children from the town’s Bothal Primary School and Central Primary School were given the afternoon off normal lessons on Friday to enjoy hot chocolate, cakes and films with delighted teaching and support staff after the double dose of good news.

Forty lucky pupils were also picked to take part in a lunchtime drone photoshoot at Cresswell Beach.

Inspection teams from Ofsted visited the schools in October and were gushing in their praise, awarding improved grades to both in reports released within days of each other.

Bothal Primary School was the first to be inspected on October 17-18. Rating the 697-pupil school as ‘outstanding’ in all five categories, the report from the team of four inspectors opened: “Pupils thrive at this exceptional school. There is an overriding ambition for everyone to ‘be the best you can be’. This ambition shines out in all aspects of school life.”

The report described leadership of the school as “visionary”, with academic and pastoral leadership “exceptionally strong” and said teachers’ subject knowledge was “exceptional”.

It described behaviour in lessons and outside the classroom as “exemplary”, adding that support for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities was “superb”, concluding: “Children make a great start to their education in the early years.”

Central Primary School was inspected by a different Ofsted team the following week on October 25-26, who rated it ‘outstanding’ for three of the five categories - leadership and management, behaviour and attitudes, and early years provision - and ‘good’ for the quality of education and personal development. This gave it a grading of ‘good’ overall.

Inspectors described the 667-pupil school as a “haven” for its pupils and families: “Leaders have ensured that pupils’ needs and safety are at the heart of the school’s curriculum. They want pupils to achieve their best.”

They continued: “Positive relationships with families allow this school to flourish. Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary. They are kind, courteous and accepting. They listen carefully in lessons and pay attention to each other’s feelings…Pupils enjoy coming to school and are keen to share their achievements. They have a positive attitude to learning.

“The school successfully ensures that all children in early years get off to the best start. The curriculum is tailored around the needs of every child as they enter the setting.”

Other examples of best practice highlighted included pupils having opportunities to take on leadership roles in the school, after first being interviewed by local business leaders.

Finding the school to be “safe and calm”, the report added: “Every school day ends with pupils in a cosy setting, listening to their teacher read an engaging story.”

Both schools, which are led by a single leadership team, enjoyed improved grades compared to previous inspections. Bothal had been rated ‘good’ overall in 2018, while Central was rated ‘requires improvement’ in May 2021.

Executive headteacher Louise Hall, who has dedicated her 19-year teaching career to working for the Trust’s schools, said the entire staff team were “ecstatic” at the Ofsted findings.

She said: “Everyone has worked so hard over the past few years to improve both schools to a position where eight out of ten Ofsted grades are ‘outstanding’ and the other two ‘good’, I have to confess to feeling quite emotional when the reports arrived.

“From teaching and support staff, to parents, to the children themselves - we have built a caring, supportive community which strives, as Ofsted found, for everyone to ‘be the best you can be’.

“The two reports now give the Trust the platform to move forward and achieve even greater things.”

Central and Bothal Primary Schools are two of the largest primary schools in Northumberland, catering for the educational needs of pupils from two to 11 years old.

Together they form the Ashington Learning Partnership, a Foundation Trust which caters for more than 1,350 pupils. Each school operates a separate lower and upper site and all four are located in the centre of Ashington.         

Bothal’s report can be read here and Central’s will appear here this week.